Data protection rules applicable to the European Parliament and to MEPs

 
BRIEFING

Data protection rules applicable to the
  European Parliament and to MEPs
        Current regime and recent developments
SUMMARY
Data protection is a fundamental right enshrined in both primary and secondary EU law. More
specifically, the main reference for data protection in Europe is the 2016 General Data Protection
Regulation (GDPR), which is fully applicable since 25 May 2018. Moreover, specific data protection
rules (currently Regulation 45/2001) apply to the EU institutions. The latter are under review, to
adapt their principles and provisions to the GDPR. The processing of data relating to parliamentary
activities is therefore covered by these specific rules, as is personal data relating to, or processed by,
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs).
This Briefing provides an overview of the main provisions applicable to parliamentary activities and
in particular to MEPs, taking account of the fact that the process of reforming the current rules has
not been formally concluded (even if a political agreement has been reached between the
co-legislators). An update of this Briefing will be published in due course.

Introduction
The rights to private life and to data protection are enshrined in Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter of
Fundamental Rights (CFR), binding as EU primary law since the Lisbon Treaty. Data protection is also
enshrined in Article 16 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), which constitutes a specific
legal basis for adopting legislative acts on data protection.1 Article 52(3) CFR, states that the
meaning of the rights guaranteed in the Charter is the same as in the European Convention on
Human Rights (ECHR): Article 8 of the latter protects the right to a private life (interpreted in
jurisprudence as including the right to data protection), which can be subject to certain restrictions
only if 'in accordance with law' and 'necessary in a democratic society'.
The advance of digital technologies and the emergence of 'big data' and of a data-driven society –
where almost every daily activity involves the flow and combination of data – require clear and up-
to-date rules, suited to the digital era. The collection and processing of data for many different
purposes – often automatically – offer undeniable benefits for individuals and society, but also raise
concerns for individual rights and freedom, including privacy, non-discrimination and freedom of
information. The EU has a long tradition of data protection rules: at the level of secondary law, it
adopted its general rules in the 1990s. Their update is also necessary due to technological advances.
EU institutions and bodies are not exempt from data protection rules and principles, but are subject
to specific rules. In fact, in contrast to what happens at national level, ad hoc rules on data processing
within the EU institutions have existed since Regulation No 45/2001, which is now under review, as
discussed below. Data processing relating to the activities of the European Parliament is thus subject
to these rules.

                    EPRS | European Parliamentary Research Service
                        Authors: Shara Monteleone and Silvia Kotanidis
                                  Members' Research Service
                                   PE 623.540 – June 2018                                                    EN
EPRS | European Parliamentary Research Service

The purpose of this Briefing is to provide an overview of the data protection framework applicable
to the European Parliament and its individual Members (MEPs). It takes into account recent
developments in the European data protection legal framework – namely, the General Data
Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the specific regime applicable to EU institutions and bodies. After
a brief discussion of the current law, this Briefing analyses how its revision applies to the
parliamentary sphere, both at the level of the European Parliament and of its individual Members
and parliamentary groups. It also considers open issues that need to be addressed.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
Aimed at strengthening citizens' rights uniformly, while reducing burdens for companies and public
organisations, the GDPR entered into force in 2016. It repeals Directive 95/46/EC, and since 25 May
2018 it has been fully applicable to individuals, as well as to private or public organisations
processing personal data. It is, therefore, the main reference for data protection in Europe. The GDPR
contains general principles and rules (e.g. conditions for lawful data processing, obligations and
rights deriving from data processing and safeguards) and calls for Regulation 45/2001 to be adapted
to its stronger rules.2 For this reason, a new regulation repealing the 2001 rules has been proposed
(hereinafter 'new Regulation 45/2001').3

                                             GDPR: an overview
Defined as an evolution, rather than a revolution, the GDPR (Rapporteur: Jan Albrecht, Greens/EFA, Germany)
builds on its 1995 predecessor, Directive 95/46/EC and on the case law of the Court of Justice (CJEU), which
has on several occasions underlined the importance of a high level of data protection for a democratic society.
It was adopted as part of a wide-ranging reform package, which also includes a directive on data processing
for law enforcement purposes. As a regulation, it is directly applicable in the Member States, although they
have some discretion.
As for its material and territorial scope, the GDPR applies to the processing of personal data, including by
automated means. It excludes: data processing carried out outside the scope of EU law (e.g. national security),
or for purposes of crime prevention or investigation, or by an individual as part of a purely personal or
household activity.
The GDPR applies to data controllers (i.e. natural or legal person, responsible for processing personal data
and deciding on the purposes of the processing) operating in the EU, wherever they are based.
Data is considered personal when it can identify a person (including ID card number, IP address, phone
location data). The rules do not apply to anonymous / anonymised data. Data processing is allowed if some
conditions are satisfied, i.e. with the subject's informed and unambiguous consent or on other legal grounds
(e.g. the performance of a contract; a legal obligation; or legitimate interests overriding the fundamental rights
of the subject). Also, data must be collected for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes and not further
processed in an incompatible way. The GDPR, save exceptions, prohibits the processing of special data
(e.g. revealing ethnic origins, political or religious beliefs, or details on individual's health or sex life).
Besides strengthening individuals' existing rights (e.g. to have clearer information on data usage, as well as
easier access to one's data), the GDPR introduces new rights, such as the transfer of personal data from one
service provider to another (data portability); the right to have one's data deleted if there are no legitimate
grounds for retaining them (the right to be forgotten); the right to object to profiling (as statistical deduction is
often used to make predictions about people).
The GDPR has increased accountability but has also reduced the burden for data controllers. The latter have
to inform individuals of the purposes and use of data and are responsible for demonstrating their compliance
with the rules. They have to keep a record of their data-processing activities rather than notifying the national
authority of the processing activity; they must take technical and organisational measures to make data
secure, and inform both individuals and the competent authority, if data are accidentally or unlawfully
destroyed or accessed by unauthorised persons (breach notification). Requirements, under certain
circumstances, include: designation of a data protection officer, impact assessment, and data protection by
design and by default (i.e. 'to embody' data protection rules within a product or service).

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Data protection rules applicable to the European Parliament and to MEPs

As for sanctions, fines of up to 4 % of a firm's total worldwide annual turnover may accompany or replace
corrective measures (such as warnings or orders) adopted by national supervisory authorities (DPAs) in the
case of some infringements. As for the remedies, data subjects can lodge a claim before empowered DPAs or
national courts. At EU level, a new board for national supervisory authorities has been established (EDPB).
Data transfers to third countries may take place (as in the 1995 directive) only if the third country can ensure
an adequate level of data protection. According to the CJEU, limitations to data protection rights are justified
only if provided in law, if strictly necessary and proportionate.

The Commission published a communication on GDPR implementation and an online tool for
businesses. The Article 29 Working Party (an independent European advisory body) also provided
guidelines, including on consent, profiling and transparency.

Rules for EU institutions: Regulation 45/2001 and its reform
Main aspects of current Regulation 45/2001
At present, the rules on personal data processed by EU institutions are set out in Regulation
No 45/2001 (at least until its revision is complete), which applies, with some specificities, the main
principles of the 1995 General Data Protection Directive. Its objectives are to ensure individuals'
rights and to allow the free flow of personal data between Member States and the institutions and
among the institutions themselves, supported by an effective independent supervisory system. It
lays down rules similar to those defined in the general directive, such as the requirements for lawful
processing: necessity in relation to a legal basis, such as the performance of a task carried out in the
public interest on the basis of the EU law or in the legitimate exercise of official authority vested in
the institution, for compliance with legal obligations, for the performance of a contract, or the
subject's consent. Data should be collected for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes and not
further processed in a way incompatible with those purposes;4 moreover, they should be kept for
no longer than necessary for the same purposes, except for historical, statistic or scientific purposes,
in which case longer periods are allowed providing data are anonymised or encrypted. A change in
purpose is permitted if expressly set by internal rules of the institution or body.

Actors
The actors involved are: the data subject, i.e. the person whose data are collected, stored or
otherwise processed (thus, any citizen whose data are processed by a EU institution as well as each
of its staff and each MEP); the data controller, which, under Regulation 45/2001, is the EU institution
or body, the directorate-general, the unit or any other entity (potentially including MEPs and political
groups) which, alone or jointly with others, determines how and for what purposes data are
processed; the controller is also the entity that receives requests from data subjects to exercise their
rights; the data processor, i.e. the natural or legal person or public body processing data on behalf
of the controller; the data protection officers (DPOs), i.e. the officials responsible in each institution
and body to ensure the internal application of the 2001 provisions and that data subjects' rights are
not likely to be adversely affected by the processing operations; and the European Data Protection
Supervisor (EDPS), the independent supervisory authority that ensures the application of the same
rules across all the EU institutions and who liaises with the DPOs. The EDPS was established by
Regulation 45/2001, which specifies the powers to be exerted and duties to be carried out in total
independence. These include: supervision and enforcement powers, conducting prior checks and
investigating complaints lodged by data subjects, conducting inquiries and monitoring the
application of the rules by a EU institution or body – with the exception of the Court of Justice of the
European Communities 'acting in its judicial capacity' (Article 46); consultation (advising data-
subjects and the EU institutions); and cooperation (with data protection authorities).5

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Obligations and rights
Data controllers have the obligation to inform the data subject;6 to maintain accurate and updated
data; to pay particular attention to special categories of data, i.e. 'sensitive' data (e.g. ethnic origin,
political opinions, religious beliefs, trade union membership, health and sex life);7 to delete or block
data if no longer needed for the original purpose; to make data accessible to the data subject; to
ensure the technical and organisational security of personal data; and to respond (within 15 working
days) to data subjects' requests regarding the exercise of their rights, e.g. the right to access,
rectification, blocking, erasure, and to object to processing of personal data.8 The institutions or
bodies, as data controllers, may restrict these rights when necessary for: crime prevention,
investigation or prosecution; national security, public security or defence of a Member State; an
important economic or financial interest.
Moreover, the regulation provides for the mandatory appointment of a DPO within each EU
institution, to ensure that the rules are applied and to advise data controllers. A general notification
procedure is required under the current 2001 rules, meaning that the data controller has to contact
and inform the DPO prior to undertaking a processing operation: the DPO keeps a register of data
processing operations and can investigate matters related to the tasks. The DPO has to consult the
EDPS (prior checks) when processing operations are likely to present risks to subjects' rights.
Moreover, the DPO's powers and duties are currently indicated in Annex of Regulation 45/2001 and
in the 2005 European Parliament Bureau Decision implementing it. In particular, the DPO (who must
be independent in performing his or her tasks) may make recommendations to the institution and
to the controller concerned, may investigate matters and occurrences relating to his or her tasks; he
or she shall have access at all times to the data being processed and to all offices and data processing
installations; and every controller concerned shall assist him or her.9
As for the sanctions, any failure to comply with the obligations provided in Regulation 45/2001,
whether intentionally or through negligence, may make an official or servant of the EU institutions
liable to disciplinary action (according to the Staff Regulations of officials of the EU institutions).10
The boxes below provide examples of application of the current rules.

                               Parliamentary questions and personal data
    Parliamentary questions may in certain circumstances pose problems for the protection of personal data.
    Such conflicts may arise, for instance, for the content of questions for oral answer (Rule 128 of the Rules
    of Procedure), questions for written answer (Rule 130 of the Rules of Procedure), minor interpellations for
    written answer (Rule 130a of the Rules of Procedure), and major interpellations for written answer with
    debate (130b of the Rules of Procedure) that may contain personal information. Also in such cases, the
    protection of personal data enshrined in Regulation 45/2001 remains of primary importance,
    notwithstanding the fact that Members, for instance under Rule 130, in submitting questions for written
    answer to the President of the European Council, the Council, the Commission or the Vice-President of
    the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, are legitimately
    expressing their political opinion and therefore enjoy freedom of speech in the exercise of their
    parliamentary mandate. These situations fall under Regulation 45/2001, which protects personal data. The
    practice established within the European Parliament entails that, where personal data risk being
    disseminated via parliamentary questions, without the consent of the data subject, the Parliament's
    administration ensures that unlawful processing is avoided by proposing the anonymisation of certain
    data, save where exceptions under Regulation 45/2001 apply. In the case of disagreement, the President
    of Parliament is competent to ultimately decide on the admissibility of the question.

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Data protection rules applicable to the European Parliament and to MEPs

                           The Member's declaration of financial interests
 For reasons of transparency and to enhance integrity in the execution of the Member's mandate, Article 4
 of the Code of Conduct for Members of the European Parliament, now Annex I of the Rules of Procedure,
 requires Members to submit a declaration of financial interests to the President of the EP. This declaration
 must contain specific financial information, such as income from the Member's occupation for three years
 prior to taking up office, including membership of company boards or any other remuneration for
 occasional outside activities exceeding €5 000 per year. MEPs must indicate if activities are remunerated
 and, if so, the income bracket to which the remunerations belong (e.g. €1 to €499; €500 to €1 000, etc.). An
 important aspect of the declaration of financial interests is the requirement that such information be
 published on the EP's website in an easy and accessible manner (Article 4(3) of the Code of Conduct). This
 publication of personal data is justified under the exception provided in Article 5(a) as it is necessary for
 the performance of Parliament's tasks in the public interest, on the basis of its Rules of Procedure.

                              Petitions and protection of personal data
 The right to petition is a right guaranteed by Articles 24 and 227 of the TFEU and serves citizens' democratic
 participation. The Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament (Rules 215 to 217) provide that petitions
 become public documents once registered, with the possibility to withhold the name of the petitioner to
 protect his or her privacy. Case T-343/13 concerned an action for damages against the European
 Parliament on the grounds that information regarding the petitioner's health, his son's health and his
 professional life was unlawfully disseminated and not erased in due time, contrary to Regulation 45/2001.
 The General Court in its judgment decided in favour of the European Parliament, considering that the
 petitioner had given his free and informed consent to the processing of his personal data, including
 sensitive data (Articles 5 and 10 of Regulation 45/2001) since the information made available on
 Parliament's website ('online help') could enable a reasonably observant petitioner to assess the full extent
 of the implications of his/her action in submitting the petition. The consent was also specific and express
 as it was given through a specific form that the petitioner ticked in the affirmative. Therefore, the
 dissemination of personal data by the Parliament was not unlawful. As to the erasure of personal data from
 the web, the General Court considered that Parliament had no binding obligation to erase and the long
 time that elapsed before full erasure could be achieved was not a violation of Regulation 45/2001. This
 case, as the General Court observed, differed from the Google case (C-131/12) on the 'right to be forgotten',
 where the data subject did not consent to the initial publication of his data.

                                                 Donations
Other data protection rules of relevance to parliamentary activities can be found in Regulation 1141/2014 on
the statute and funding of European political parties and foundations. Article 33 states that, in processing data
pursuant to this regulation, the Parliament is considered a data controller and shall comply with Regulation
45/2001, while, for the same purposes, the European political parties shall, instead, comply with Directive
95/46/EC and with national provisions (now presumably with the GDPR). On the need to strike a balance
between the right to data protection and the interests of transparency, Article 20 of Regulation 1141/2014
states that the names of donors and their donations not exceeding €1 500 per year should not be published.

Main changes in the regulation that will replace Regulation 45/2001
Together with other initiatives in the field of data protection, in January 2017 the Commission
adopted a proposal for a regulation on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of
personal data by the Union institutions, bodies, [offices and agencies] and on the free movement of such
data, and repealing Regulation (EC) No 45/2001.11 The aim was to reform the existing 2001 rules to
align them to the 2016 GDPR, that is to ensure that EU institutions and bodies processing personal
data comply with a coherent and up-to-date framework ensuring free movement of data among
services (or to recipients in the EU), while upholding individuals' rights in accordance with the GDPR
as well as with the e-Privacy rules (also currently under review).

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        The new regulation that will replace Regulation 45/2001: legislative process
 The proposal was published in January 2017. A compromise text (political agreement) between the co-
 legislators was reached in May 2018 on equivalent rules on data protection in the EU institutions.
 Within the European Parliament, the proposal was assigned to the Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE). The
 Committee report (rapporteur: Cornelia Ernst, GUE/NGL, Germany), put forward several amendments,
 aimed at harmonising the data protection regime also for EU bodies carrying out activities in the field of
 judicial cooperation in criminal matters and police cooperation. Parliament's LIBE committee adopted its
 report and the mandate to enter into interinstitutional negotiations in October 2017.
 The Council adopted its general approach in June 2017. In particular, it aimed to exclude from the scope
 of the regulation the processing of 'operational personal data', such as data processed for criminal
 investigations by EU bodies such as Eurojust and Europol (at least when the establishing acts of these
 bodies provide for data protection rules, with the latter prevailing over the revised regulation).
 Trilogue negotiations on the file advanced under the Estonian and the Bulgarian Presidencies. The main
 issue at stake was the scope of the regulation and thus setting specific requirements for operational data
 of the EU's justice and home affairs agencies while keeping a harmonised framework. The European
 Parliament rapporteur insisted on including EU agencies dealing with data processing in the area of law
 enforcement (Eurojust, Europol and EPPO as well as missions) within the scope of application of the new
 rules, and suggested introducing an additional chapter on operational data (Chapter VIII-a) within the
 same regulation. Specific provisions of the founding acts of these agencies would only give details and
 complement the revised Regulation 45/2001. The Council, by contrast, was leaning more towards
 excluding these EU agencies from the scope of the new regulation.
 A compromise was reached two days before 25 May 2018 (the date originally planned for its adoption, in
 parallel with GDPR); the delay in the adoption of the new rules may potentially create discrepancies, at
 least for the time being, between the level of protection offered by the general rules of GDPR and that
 offered by the current Regulation 45/2001. The political agreement is, however, a meaningful sign of a
 common will to build a coherent data protection framework.

General principles and requirements
Scope
The new regulation will apply to data processing by automated means or otherwise, if part of a filing
system by Union institutions and bodies, including the transfer of data between them or to other
recipients established in the Union.12
According to the compromise text (Article 2), this regulation will not apply to the processing of
operational personal data by Europol and the European Public Prosecutor's Office, until the
respective acts (Regulations No 2016/794 and No 2017/1939) are adapted, nor to missions. A new
Chapter VIIIa has been included (as requested by the Parliament, but modified in the compromise
text) with general rules on processing of operational personal data by Union agencies, offices and
bodies when carrying out activities in the field of judicial cooperation in criminal matters and police
cooperation: specific provisions in the founding acts of the agencies are maintained.

Own definitions
Article 3 of the compromise text includes both definitions specific to this regulation, e.g. that of
'Union institution', 'controller', 'user', 'operational personal data' or 'directory',13 and definitions that
are identical to the GDPR (e.g. that of consent, processing, profiling, etc.).
Regarding its own definition of data controller, unlike the GDPR, the proposal does not include in
its definition the reference to natural persons. Therefore, according to new Regulation 45/2001 a
controller is: a Union institution, body, office or agency, or a directorate-general or any other
organisational entity (this could potentially also include parliamentary groups or the office of an

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MEP) that determines, also jointly, the purposes and means of data processing; also 'controllers other
than Union institutions and bodies' means controllers within the meaning of Article 4(7) GDPR,
which considers as a controller any natural or legal person, public authority, or other body
determining the purposes and means of personal data processing. The new definition does not
include 'unit' (this term is used in current Regulation 45/2001), but it may be included if considered
as an 'organisational entity'. Each controller shall maintain a record of processing activities under its
responsibility. The data processor, is, rather, defined as 'the natural or legal person or public body
processing data on behalf of the controller'.

Main principles and rules
Changes introduced with the reform include increased transparency and confidentiality
requirements, in line with the GDPR. Personal data must be collected for specified, explicit and
legitimate purposes and not further processed in an incompatible way (Article 4). More flexibility is
provided than in the GDPR, with conditions, as regards data processing for other compatible
purposes (than that for which data were initially collected).14
The criteria for lawful data processing replicate those of the GDPR (consent, necessity to perform a
task in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in the Union body, or in compliance
with a legal obligation, etc.) with the exception of the controller's legitimate interest, which is not
applicable to the Union institutions (Article 5).15 In line with the GDPR, consent, to be valid as legal
grounds, must be freely given and unambiguous, expressed by a clear affirmative act (including
ticking a box); silence, pre-ticked boxes or inactivity should not constitute consent; on the other
hand, consent could cover all processing activities carried out for the same purposes. Therefore,
processing data for the same purposes for which the institution, as controller, has got already the
subject's consent does not require new consent, as far as the controller can demonstrate that a clear
indication of consent was obtained in the past. However, information obligations apply.
Also, according to the principle of accountability,16 the data controller needs to be able to
demonstrate compliance with the regulation.17 It is clear that the designation of a data controller
within the EU institutions implies a series of obligations and tasks (Chapter IV of the new regulation).
Regarding special categories of data, (e.g. on health, or religious or political persuasion), derogations
from the general prohibition to process them (Article 10) include: processing carried out in the
course of its legitimate activities by a non-profit-making body which constitutes an entity integrated
in a Union institution or body and with a political, philosophical, religious or trade-union aim and on
condition that the processing relates solely to the members or to persons who have regular contact
with it in connection with its purposes and that the data are not disclosed outside that body without
the consent of the data subjects; another derogation applies if processing relates to data that are
manifestly made public by the data subject.
With a view to strengthening individuals' rights, the proposal places obligations on data controllers,
such as to provide transparent, easily accessible information (save derogations) as well as
mechanisms for exercising their rights (including electronic requests). Information must include the
storage period, the right to lodge a complaint and possible international transfers; an exception
applies if personal data must remain subject to an obligation of professional secrecy regulated by
EU law (e.g. data processed by services competent for social security or health matters).
Moreover, the subject's rights include the right to access (his or her data being processed by the
institutions), the right to erasure ('right to be forgotten'), as well as the right to restrict processing in
certain cases (former 'right to blocking') from the controller, the right to data portability (to transmit
data to another controller), and the 'right to object' to certain forms of data processing.
According to the compromise text on the proposal, restrictions to these rights – which are necessary
and proportionate to safeguard national security, public security, the prevention, investigation of
crimes, the internal security of the institutions or another important general public interest of the
Union or of a Member State, like common foreign and security policy, and which uphold the essence

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of fundamental rights18 – may be adopted by a legal act on the basis of the Treaties or by the
internal rules of Union institutions in matters relating to the operation of the institutions.19 The
indication of internal rules as grounds for restricting data protection rights was among the political
issues raised during the trilogues.
The text resulting from the trilogues (Article 25) seems designed to allow for EU institutions’ internal
rules as a basis for restrictions of rights, but (in compliance with Article 52(1) CFR) providing they are
clear and precise acts of general application, intended to produce legal effects vis-à-vis data
subjects, adopted at the highest level of management of the institutions and subject to publication in
the Official Journal (acts such as internal guidelines of an institution seem to be excluded).
Another novelty, in line with the GDPR, is the right of the subject to object to data processing,
although necessary for a task carried out in the public interest (including profiling), and not to be
subject to a solely automated decision (i.e. a decision affecting an individual based solely on
automated processing, without human intervention), for instance for e-recruitment. Also, the
principles of data protection by design (where the data processing system is designed from the
outset to minimise the collection of data by means, for instance, of pseudonymisation) and by
default (only necessary data should be processed), are now extended to the Union institutions.

Enforcement and control
A data protection impact assessment will be conducted by a controller prior to data processing
operations that might result in high risks to the rights of individuals (e.g. if using new technologies
to evaluate personal details of persons based on profiling). If data processing results in high risks
consultation with the EDPS is mandatory.
Regarding the DPO, his or her position is also strengthened and the EU institutions must ensure that
he or she is involved in all issues that relate to the protection of personal data. The DPO's tasks will
include: informing and advising the controller; ensuring in an independent manner the internal
application of the regulation and monitoring compliance with it and other data protection policies.
As the current Regulation 45/2001 defines the powers and duties of the EDPS, the new proposal
contains several provisions aimed at strengthening these powers.20 While the new regulation
confirms, inter alia, the EDPS's task of monitoring and enforcing the application of this regulation
by a Union institution or body, with the (only explicit) exception of the processing of data by the
CJEU acting in its judicial capacity, it also clarifies the EDPS's investigative powers (Article 59).21
When it comes to the regime of remedies, the proposal confirms the right of any data subject to
lodge a complaint with the EDPS and the right to compensation for both material and non-material
damage. Tougher sanctions are provided in cases of infringement, and the EDPS has the power to
impose administrative fines on Union institutions and bodies where the controller/institution
failed to comply with an order of the EDPS.
Attention is paid also to the confidentiality of electronic communications to be secured by the Union
institutions, in particular by securing their electronic communication networks (new Section 2a). The
draft regulation also protects data relating to the terminal equipment of end-users accessing
publicly available websites and mobile applications offered by Union institutions, in accordance
with the current e-Privacy Directive and in view of the upcoming e-Privacy Regulation.
The EDPS adopted practical guidelines in early 2018 to help EU institutions processing personal
data,22 taking into account the GDPR. In particular, the guidelines provide recommendations on
implementing accountability for data protection by outlining the approach the institutions should
take in the development and maintenance of the information systems and databases (including
'privacy by design') as well as when opting to process data using cloud-based services.23

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Data protection rules applicable to the European Parliament and to MEPs

GDPR or Regulation 45/2001? Or are MEPs in a class of their own?
As mentioned above, a special regime exists for data processing by EU institutions and bodies
(current Regulation 45/2001). The GDPR explicitly rules out its applicability to this kind of processing
in Article 3. The new Regulation 45/2001 will apply to processing of personal data as regards
parliamentary activities, at least unless stated otherwise.
The issue that may emerge as regards the applicability of data protection rules to individual MEPs24
(whether to apply just Regulation 45/2001 and its update, the GDPR, or both)25 might require prior
clarification of whether MEPs should be considered at all times in their quality as part of the
European Parliament (and therefore as falling under the rules for EU institutions) or not: it seems
that the prevailing interpretation is to consider MEPs, whether taken in parliamentary groups or
individually in their capacity of Member, and processing personal data in the exercise of their
European mandate, as forming European entities, and thus subject to Regulation 45/2001 and
its update:26 Data processing activities should be considered as one of the responsibilities of the
MEP, and, in case, involving the Parliament (or an entity inside it) as data processor or co-controller.27
Also, it should be stressed that owing to the variety of tasks and areas covered by the Parliament,
data protection requirements must be determined on a case-by-case basis. The application of the
GDPR could for instance be envisaged in any case where an MEP acted as an ordinary citizen or as a
national parliamentarian and not in the exercise of his/her function as European parliamentarian. In
any case, whichever regulation is applicable, the main substantial principles and values underlying
their rules are equivalent and pursue the same objectives.
The following situations and potential applicability of data protection rules could be considered:
1    MEPs as data subjects (of data-processing by EU institutions) – current or new Regulation 45/2001
2    MEPs in the exercise of their functions – current or new Regulation 45/2001
3    MEPs when not acting as MEPs - GDPR and national data protection laws
Still, it may be advisable for the law- and policy-makers to better clarify whether MEPs can be
considered as sui generis data controllers in light of the new Regulation 45/2001 (and therefore
subject to the related obligations) or not. More importantly, it would be worth clarifying to what
extent the political role exercised implies a sort of 'inapplicability in practice' of the supervisory
system of data protection (e.g. MEPs acting in their capacity would not be subject to oversight as
other data controllers and European Parliament staff). The reasons may be found in their political
mandate, as representatives of Union citizens, and in the need to provide specific rules for them in
order to guarantee them the freedom to exercise their functions: the European Parliament,
according to the Treaty on European Union (Article 14), exercises the functions of political control.
As also indicated in the Rules of Procedure and the Statute for Members,28 MEPs shall exercise their
mandate freely and independently.29 While MEPs are bound by data protection rules for EU
institutions and any infringement would still be an unlawful act, in principle supervision
mechanisms (such as audits) might be restricted to the extent that there is a strict link between data
processing and the exercise of their mandate (similar to the immunities regime as interpreted by
the CJEU).30 However, it remains to be clarified whether or not, and to what extent, the supervision
mechanisms provided by Regulation 45/2001 (and its update) could be limited with regard to
individual MEPs, but with the rest of the regulation's provisions applicable. Data processing within
the European Parliament's administration is in any case subject to Regulation 45/2001: so the EP is
the controller of the data-processing operations concerning the recruitment procedure for
assistants and access control to EP premises for visitors.
The 2005 Bureau decision, implementing Regulation 45/2001, mainly describes the powers and duties of the
DPO appointed in the European Parliament and the data subjects' rights (e.g. request to access to data).31 No
mention is made of the DPO's role (if any) in relation to the data processing carried out by individual MEPs,32
nor of whether the latter can be considered data controllers or not. The only activity that seem to be taken
into account is the data processing carried out by the EP's staff.33 As regards the monitoring procedure, the
DPO may carry out any type of monitoring at any time in order to ensure the application of Regulation 45/2001

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by the European Parliament; the DPO should cover all the data processing operations performed by the EP, its
Members and the political groups. One DPO could work for all, or a number of, MEPs.
The issue of data processing by individual MEPs, and in particular of the control and supervision (by
the internal DPO and by the EDPS) of their activities might be clarified hopefully before the adoption
of the new regulation (and in collaboration with the EDPS). Similar open issues might be posed as
regards the activities of the Parliament's political groups, into which MEPs can organise
themselves, entailing data processing (the European political parties meanwhile are treated
differently and should be covered by the GDPR and national laws as mentioned above). Given the
role of the DPO in ensuring the application of the new rules within the European Parliament, a single
DPO for all parliamentary groups might be a possibility (in any case, different from the DPO
responsible for the EP administration).

Further considerations
As a suggestion, further clarification of the application of new Regulation 45/2001 to MEPs (and to
political groups) could be contained in an act of the Parliament, such as a Bureau decision. However,
if this is contained in internal rules and restricts individuals' rights, it should respect the conditions
established in the new Article 25 (i.e. they should be precise acts of general application, adopted at
the highest level of management of the institution and published in the Official Journal).
With regard to the independent authority that, according to Article 16 TFEU, should monitor
compliance with data protection rules, this, as regards MEPs should be the EDPS.
It should be stressed that, in any case, substantial data protection principles (contained for instance
in the CFR, the ECHR and CoE Convention 108) should be observed.

Outlook
This briefing seeks to provide an overview and some cues for discussion of the main data protection
principles and rules applicable to Parliament and its Members. It is based on the current and
upcoming legal framework as well as on current practice. It also highlights a number of critical issues
and suggests that the upcoming reform in the field may provide the opportunity to discuss and
possibly clarify these issues. An update of this briefing is envisaged alongside the adoption of the
proposed new regulation that will replace Regulation 45/2001.

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Data protection rules applicable to the European Parliament and to MEPs

MAIN REFERENCES
Protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data by the EU institutions, bodies, offices
and agencies and the free movement of such data, European Parliament, Legislative Observatory (OEIL).
EDPS, New data protection rules for the EU institutions, press release, 23 May 2018.
Article 29 Working Party, Statement on the review of Regulation 45/2001, April 2017.
Monteleone S., Rules for EU institutions' processing of personal data, EPRS, European Parliament, April 2018.
Monteleone S., GDPR goes live: A modern data protection law EPRS, European Parliament, May 2018.
Assessment of the impact of specific aspects of the new model of governance and accountability of data
protection by Union institutions and bodies proposed by the Commission, substitute impact assessment,
EPRS, European Parliament, October 2017.
ENDNOTES
1
 Article 16 TFEU recognises the right to data protection for any individual, and provides that the rules adopted by the EU
and Member States acting within the scope of EU law and related to data protection are to be laid down following the
ordinary legislative procedure and that compliance with these rules shall be subject to the control of independent
authorities. At the level of international treaties, mention should be made of Article 17 of the ICCPR, Article 8 of the ECHR
(on the right to privacy) and Council of Europe Convention 108/1981, the first international legally binding instrument on
the automatic processing of personal data (see its recent amending protocol).
2   European Commission proposal for a regulation on data protection in the EU institutions, explanatory memorandum.
3
 New Regulation 45/2001 also requires EU bodies to comply with e-Privacy rules. An e-Privacy Regulation is also under
way, although delays in the legislative process prevented the presentation of a complete framework by 25 May 2018.
4
 See Case T-82/09, Dennekamp v Parliament, on the (upheld) refusal by the EP to grant the applicant access to documents
regarding the affiliation of certain MEPs to the additional pension scheme, for reasons of data protection.
5
 The EDPS has the power: to give advice to data subjects on their rights; to warn or admonish the controller; to order the
rectification or erasure of data processed in breach of the law; to impose a temporary or definitive ban on processing; to
obtain access to any premises in which 'a controller or Community institution or body carries on its activities when there
are reasonable grounds for presuming that an activity covered by this regulation is being carried out there' (Article 47.2).
6
    See for instance the Privacy Statement released by the EP on the occasion of an interparliamentary committee meeting.
7
 See Case F-46/09 V. & EDPS v. European Parliament in which the EU civil service Tribunal annulled the decision of the
European Parliament to withdraw the offer of employment to the plaintiff because in breach of Regulation 45/2001.
8
    See for instance the Guide for users prepared by the EP on the basis of Regulation 45/2001 and the website legal notice.
9
 See also Article 14 of the 2015 EP Bureau Decision on monitoring procedure: the DPO may decide to carry out any type
of monitoring at any time in order to ensure that the Regulation [45/2001] is properly applied by the European Parliament.
10
  Accordingly (Article 86), any failure by an official to comply with his obligations under these Staff Regulations, whether
intentionally or through negligence on his part, shall make him liable to disciplinary action. Where the appointing
authority or OLAF becomes aware of evidence of failure within the meaning of paragraph 1, they may launch
administrative investigations to verify whether such failure has occurred.
11
     The text in the square brackets is present in the proposal, but disappeared in the compromise (Article 1).
12
  As in the previous note; it has been also deleted the reference 'insofar as such processing is carried out in the exercise of
activities which fall within the scope of Union law' (Article 2).
13
  Article 3.2.d defines 'directory' as a publicly available directory of users or an internal directory of users available within
a Union institution or body or shared between Union institutions and bodies, whether in printed or electronic form.
14
  Further processing for archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific, research or statistical purposes shall not be
considered to be incompatible with the initial purposes (Article 4).
15
  However, see Article 23 of the proposal, where compelling legitimate grounds of the institution, over-riding individuals'
rights, once demonstrated, can restrict the right to object of Article 23.
16
  In line with the principle of accountability of the GDPR, the controller shall demonstrate that the subject has consented
to the processing of his or her data; when assessing if the consent is freely given, it should be taken into account whether
the performance of a contract, including the provision of a service, is conditional on consent to data processing that is not
necessary for the performance of that contract. See, inter alia, EDPS provisional guidance on accountability.
17
  This includes the adoption of appropriate technical and organisational measures and, where appropriate, internal
policies and mechanisms for ensuring such compliance. See also the report published in 2017 by the EDPS, which will
support the EU institutions in moving towards an accountability-based approach.
18
  On the problematic definition of this concept see, inter alia, M. Brkan, In Search of the Concept of Essence of EU
Fundamental Rights through the Prism of Data Privacy Maastricht Faculty of Law Working Paper, No 2017-01.

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 The reference contained in the original proposal that 'Even in the absence of a legal act or internal rules, an EU institution
19

may restrict these rights in relation to a specific processing operation' has been deleted in the compromise.
20
     The proposal will also repeal Decision No 1247/2002/EC governing the EDPS's duties.
21
   These include: to carry out investigations in the form of data protection audits; to obtain, from the controller access to
all personal data and information necessary for its tasks; to obtain access to any premises of the controller, including to any
data processing equipment and means, in accordance with Union law.
22
   See Action 8, 'Continue to support EU institutions in moving beyond a purely compliance-based approach to one that
is also based on accountability'. See also, the International data protection commissioners' conference to be held in
Brussels, in October 2018.
23
  Moreover, the EDPS published provisional guidance on transparency rights and obligations according to the proposed
regulation and guidelines on accountability in documenting processing operations.
24
  See on a different issue J. Kunert, 'Members of the European Parliament on the Web', 2015, where they are defined as
distinctive parliamentarians, because they are members of the European Parliament, a special political environment.
25
     See similar issues discussed, at national level, in the recent study by the German Bundestag's research service.
26
     See Article 29 Working Party, Opinion on the concept of controller and of processor, 16 February 2010, footnote 13.
27
  The European Parliament, for instance, supplies MEPs with technical support, including IT systems, facilities,
maintenance, and security.
28
  See in particular, Article 2 (Members shall be free and independent); also Article 4 states that 'Documents and electronic
records which a Member has received, drafted or sent shall not be treated as Parliament documents unless they have been
tabled in accordance with the Rules of Procedure'. The rationale behind this provision seems to be to avoid these
documents being subject to the regime for access to European Parliament documents and to protect their confidentiality.
29
  On the other hand, there are indications of the need to respect data protection also in parliamentary activities that are
directly related to the Members' mandate in some provisions of secondary law. For instance the right to inspect files,
provided for by Article 6 of the Statute for Members and in the Rules of Procedure, as 'essential for the exercise of the
Members' mandate' finds its limitation precisely in 'personal files and accounts', thus in data protection rights.
30
  For instance, according to Rule 2, Members shall exercise their mandate freely and independently, shall not be bound
by any instructions and shall not receive a binding mandate. Rule 5 states that Members enjoy the privileges and
immunities laid down in the Protocol No 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the EU (see for example Articles 7, 8 and 9).
Parliamentary immunity is not a Member's personal privilege but a guarantee of the independence of Parliament as a
whole. On the functional link between an MEP's activity and the exercise of the mandate, necessary for the application of
the immunities regime, see the Patriciello case (C-163/10).
31
   See Article 2: the DPO shall be independent in the performance of his/her duties; he/she may not receive any
instructions, in particular from the appointing authority, the Secretary-General or any other source. Article 7: the register
(kept by the DPO) shall detail the notified processing operations carried out at the European Parliament and indicate the
department responsible for the processing and the purpose.
32
  In Article 6 on the obligation on the data controller to provide the DPO with information includes the name of the latter
and the European Parliament departments that are entrusted with the data processing for a particular purpose.
33
   Article 17 of Decision states that the Secretary-General may appoint an authority subordinate to h/her as a data
controller according to Art 2 Reg. 45/2001, responsible for, inter alia, giving the members of the European Parliament's
staff (or other persons under their authority) suitable instructions for ensuring that processing is confidential (however, a
data controller, as responsible of data processing should in any case be identified to comply with Regulation 45/2001).

DISCLAIMER AND COPYRIGHT
This document is prepared for, and addressed to, the Members and staff of the European Parliament as
background material to assist them in their parliamentary work. The content of the document is the sole
responsibility of its author(s) and any opinions expressed herein should not be taken to represent an official
position of the Parliament.
Reproduction and translation for non-commercial purposes are authorised, provided the source is
acknowledged and the European Parliament is given prior notice and sent a copy.
© European Union, 2018.
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